Sunday, December 19, 2021
by Sister Maura McMenamin, SNDdeN
“Mary set out at that time and went quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went to Zacharias’ house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment that your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled”
Perhaps we need to place this passage in the context of the Annunciation, when Mary is told by Gabriel that she is to become the mother of the Son of the most high and he will be named Jesus. She is then told her cousin, Elizabeth will bear a son. There are some key words in our passage which may capture our attention: went quickly, Greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s reaction
At first glance this is a story of two women, each recognizing the “gift-fullness” of the other. Each acknowledges the motherhood of the other. Thus instead of revealing in their own motherhood, they are quick to praise and honour each other’s calling. Mary is to be the mother of the Saviour of the world and Elizabeth to be the mother of his fore-runner. As we approach the feast of Christmas, can we take up the invitation to ponder the story of these two women and consider how it can change our lives?
This story which comes at the end of Advent draws us away from the mad rush of Christmas shopping and the endless round of parties to consider the joy and humility of Mary and Elizabeth.
Going beyond our chosen short passage to the full text of the Magnificat we find a further challenge in the words, The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich sent empty away” Can we turn this statement upside down and seek out those who are at the bottom of our society?
Luke 1: 39-45
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Meet Sister Maura McMenamin, SNDdeN
Sister Maura, who was born in Scotland, spent most of her religious life in the south of England. For many years she was a primary school head. Before taking up the role of an adviser on Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Southwark, she spent a short time in the Shetland Isles (the most northerly part of the British Isles) setting up catechetical opportunities for children and parents. Later she took up the dual role of adviser and inspector for the Diocese of Plymouth where she also tutored for the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies for teachers and catechists. She then spent a short time as acting director in Plymouth before taking up the post of Director of the RE Office in Argyll and the Isles. This afforded her the opportunity of travelling to fascinating faraway places such as Barra, Skye and Lewis. Ill health caused her to retire at the age of 70. Then she worked for a while as a part-time on-line tutor for St Bede’s College, Ushaw, tutoring students working towards the CCRS certificate. Sister Maura is now fully retired from active, full-time ministry and has returned to England.